Cozens helps lift Sabres to home win over Capitals

Dylan Cozens scored his first-career hat-trick in a 7-4 win for Buffalo

Buffalo, N.Y. (WGR 550) - The Buffalo Sabres were able to gain ground in the Eastern Conference playoff race with a key 7-4 win over the Washington Capitals on Sunday afternoon at KeyBank Center.

It was a career game for Sabres center Dylan Cozens, who was able to pick up three of Buffalo's seven goals to help his team to snap a three-game home losing streak.

After a number of quality chances back-and-forth in the opening 10 minutes of play, the Sabres were able to break through first thanks to a nifty give-and-go play between Cozens and Casey Mittelstadt.

After taking a pass from Cozens on the breakout, Mittelstadt gained entry into the Capitals zone and returned the puck to Cozens in behind the Washington defense. Cozens was able to beat the veteran goalie Darcy Kuemper with a wrist shot to give Buffalo a 1-0 lead.

The goal was Dylan Cozens' 21st goal of the season and 100th career point in the NHL.

Just a little more than four minutes later, the Capitals tied the game on a nifty passing play that saw center Dylan Strome score his 13th of the season.

Less than two minutes later, the Sabres re-gained the lead off a bad Washington turnover in their own zone. It was Tage Thompson who corralled the loose puck and then wired home his 40th goal of the season.

Thompson becomes the first 40-goal scorer for the Sabres since Jeff Skinner was able to score 40 in his first season with the team during the 2018-19 season.

However, just 15 seconds later, the Capitals responded again. This time, it was T.J. Oshie capitalizing on a feed from Strome for his 15th goal of the year.

When the dust settled on the first period, the score was tied at 2-2 with shots slightly favoring the Capitals, 11-10.

Skinner was able to capitalize on a rebound early in the second period to give the Sabres a 3-2 lead. The 30-year-old was in the right spot at the right time, and he deposited the puck into the net after it squeaked through Kuemper on a shot from Mattias Samuelsson.

The Sabres continued their scoring ways with Zemgus Girgensons picking up his eighth goal of the year. After a nice play by both Tyson Jost and Kyle Okposo to force a turnover in the Washington end, the Sabres captain fed Girgensons with open space in front of Kuemper.

Just 1:31 later, the Sabres added another goal as Vinnie Hinostroza was able to score his first goal of the season after being called up from the Rochester Americans. Hinostroza was able to gather the puck after a shot attempt from defenseman Owen Power was blocked, and the veteran winger scored with Kuemper down-and-out.

That goal would end the afternoon for Kuemper, as he was replaced in goal by backup Charlie Lindgren. Kuemper ended up playing 30:07, allowing five goals on 19 shots faced.

The Sabres were not done there, though, as Cozens ended up scoring his second goal of the game at the 12:49 mark after getting behind the Washington defense again. After Jack Quinn fed Cozens with a great lead pass, Cozens beat Lindgren with a wrist shot to the blocker side.

Washington managed to claw their way back into the game at the end of the second period with two quick goals to cut its deficit to 6-4.

First, Alex Ovechkin scored his 33rd goal of the season with some help from a bad bounce off the boards. The goal was also Ovechkin's 813th goal of his career.

Then with 1:20 remaining in the period, Mittelstadt made a mistake with a drop pass at center ice to no one other than Capitals forward Sonny Milano. Milano was able to beat Sabres goalie Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen in alone to bring Washington to within a pair.

As both teams headed to the locker room after 40 minutes of play, the Sabres led the game both on the scoreboard and the shot department, 27-19.

Cozens capped off a career game in the third period with his third goal of the game, giving him his first-career hat-trick and first four-point outing in the NHL. Cozens was able to find some space in front of the Washington net, and Hinostroza fed the 22-year-old with a perfect pass.

With the 7-4 win, the Sabres were able to jump back into a playoff spot in the Eastern Conference Wild Card chase with 66 points.

Follow along with all the game action here:

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Scoring Summary:

First Period:
BUF: 10:40 - Dylan Cozens (21) (Casey Mittelstadt, Ilya Lyubushkin); 16:35 - Tage Thompson (40) (Unassisted)
WSH: 14:45 - Dylan Strome (13) (Nick Jensen, T.J. Oshie); 16:50 - T.J. Oshie (15) (Dylan Strome, Nick Jensen)

Second Period:
BUF: 5:49 - Jeff Skinner (25) (Mattias Samuelsson, Jack Quinn); 8:36 - Zemgus Girgensons (8) (Kyle Okposo, Tyson Jost); 10:07 - Vinnie Hinostroza (1) (Owen Power, Dylan Cozens); 12:49 - Dylan Cozens (22) (Jack Quinn)
WSH: 15:49 - Alex Ovechkin (33) (Erik Gustafsson, Evgeny Kuznetsov); 18:40 - Sonny Milano (10) PPG (Unassisted)

Third Period:
BUF: 11:52 - Dylan Cozens (23) (Vinnie Hinostroza, Casey Mittelstadt)


Penalty Summary:

First Period:

Second Period:
BUF: 16:32 - Jack Quinn (Fighting - 5 min.); 18:00 - Dylan Cozens (Roughing - 4 min.)
WSH: 16:32 - Nicolas Aube-Kubel (Cross-checking - 2 min.); 16:32 - Nicolas Aube-Kubel (Fighting - 5 min.); 18:00 - Martin Fehervary (Roughing - 2 min.)

Third Period:
BUF: 19:26 - Henri Jokiharju (Hooking - 2 min.)
WSH: 7:09 - Nick Jensen (Hooking - 2 min.); 14:02 - Nic Dowd (Cross-checking - 2 min.)




Photo credit Losi and Gangi

Losi and Gangi Three Stars of the Game:

1.) Dylan Cozens - BUF
2.) Tage Thompson - BUF
3.) Vinnie Hinostroza - BUF


What's next:

The Sabres remain home to host the Columbus Blue Jackets on Tuesday night at KeyBank Center. Faceoff is set for 7:30 p.m. EST with pregame coverage on WGR with Schopp and the Bulldog starting at 6:30 p.m. EST.

Tuesday's game will be telecast on ESPN+ and Hulu, so the only place to catch Dan Dunleavy and Rob Ray on the play-by-play is on WGR Sports Radio 550.

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Featured Image Photo Credit: Timothy T. Ludwig - USA TODAY Sports